The Santa Anita turf course is considered one of the best in the business. Now, we’ll see what happens later this spring when the meet extends into May and June with the extinction of Hollywood Park.
So far this meet, the rain has been confined to one week. Unfortunately, rain is in the forecast for this week so this probably isn’t the best time to talk about the best turf riders and trainers, but such is life.
When handicapping I always give horses ridden by Joe Talamo (16-for-121), Corey Nakatani (16-99), Gary Stevens (11-49) and Mike Smith (12-71) extra credit. I guess I need to start looking at more Rafael Bejarano, even if he is the track’s leading rider already. Bejarano has won 31-of-130 turf starts, according to Equibase stats. The price might be great, but winners are winners.
On the flip side. jockeys to stay away from on the grass are Martin Garcia (1-54), Alonso Quinonez (1-26), Fernando Perez (1-22), Aaron Gryder (0-20) and Orlando Mojica (0-19). Garcia’s stats surprise me a little bit, but he does ride No. 1 for the Bob Baffert barn, which is 1-for-12 on the grass this meet.
The top turf trainer is Tom Proctor (14-47), especially with all those Glen Hill Farm horses he has and Stevens rides most of those.
The trainer that surprised me was Marty Jones, who has won 10 of 26 grass starts. He’s followed by Jerry Hollendorfer (9-43), John Sadler (8-59) and Doug O’Neill (8-87). O’Neill has usually been a throw out for me on turf at Del Mar, but he’s starting to get a lot of horses from Europe lately.
Surprisingly, trainer Barry Abrams is a horrible 1-for-26 on the grass this year despite most of his horses being by the sire Unusual Heat, who has excelled on the surface in the past. Others to ignore are Richard Baltas (1-17), Eoin Harty (1-16), Jack Carava (1-17) and Jorge Gutierrez (1-18).
As for last week, Baltas had three wins in one day while at least four other trainers (Jones, Hollendorfer, O’Neill and Ron Ellis) had two wins. Peter Miller continued his cold spell with an 0-for-8 week and Baffert’s barn was 0-for-3.
On the jockeys’ side, Bejarano had three wins from just nine mounts as he had to sit out a suspension. He was joined with three wins by Talamo (3-24), Tyler Baze (3-22), Smith (3-8) and apprentice Drayden Van Dyke (3-16). Nakatani was just 1-for-13 while Victor Espinoza was 1-for-10.
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Sunday’s top choice winners: 2 (Musical Arts $7.40, seventh race; Hobbits Hero $31.80, eighth)
Sunday’s second choice winners: 3 (Halo Dolly $7.60, third; Tizmetizyou $18, fourth; Fast Moka Too $3.40, ninth)
Sunday’s third choice winners: 0
Sunday’s long shot winners: 1 (Arkenstone $35.80, first)